Singapore Launches AR, AI Project to Empower Firefighters
- By Paul Mah
- September 13, 2023
The Infocomm Media Development Authority (IMDA), HTX (Home Team Science and Technology Agency), Singapore Civil Defence Force (SCDF), StarHub, and IBM today announced a new 5G-powered project to enhance the operational readiness of SCDF front liners.
Consisting of an AR headset, 5G connectivity, and AI visual recognition technology, it is envisioned to enhance SCDF’s operational readiness by automating the equipment inspection process and facilitating real-time remote assistance.
In a demonstration conducted for the media this afternoon, an SCDF personnel wearing smart glasses was able to swiftly perform a visual inspection, assisted by AI visual recognition technology to automatically enumerate items and identify equipment that might require servicing. Pre-recorded video instructions could also be accessed through the smart glasses.
At a panel discussion with the media, DC Ling, Young Ern, the deputy commissioner for Future Technology & Public Safety, SCDF, elaborated on the importance of AI-assisted checks.
“Every day, at every one of our [fire] stations, our crews have to check all the equipment in the fire and other emergency vehicles. In each [fire engine] alone, there are about 150 pieces of equipment – more if separated into different components. So we really need to be more efficient because every time there is a fire, they have to conduct another check after they return.”
“With this technology, they can simply take a picture with the AR glasses and the AI technology would then tell them which equipment is missing or not in order. This will speed up things substantially compared to the current procedure where the firefighter would have to go through every piece of equipment; the AI can look at maybe eight to 10 pieces of equipment at one go,” Ling said.
Stepping into the future
The ultra-low latency and high bandwidth that standalone 5G offers could also open the door for on-site personnel to consult with remote specialists. In addition, commanders on the ground can work with fire investigation specialists using real-time video interactions to perform analyses in a timely manner.
“Innovation is key to carrying out our mission in protecting and saving lives and property. SCDF has been piloting smart technologies to reshape the way front liners are trained and operations are executed,” said Ling.
However, reliability is an absolute requirement: “We have to be very sure that the technology is mature and reliable before we put it to use at the frontline. We make it a point to always make sure that we conduct trials and [proof-of-concepts] to ensure that it works for us before we deploy.”
“In our line of work, you can’t go wrong in our response. We can’t say sorry to our front liners should the equipment fail. We can’t afford these things to happen.”
Of course, digitalizing an emergency response organization is a huge challenge, more so considering that the SCDF consists of the more advanced in age, those in their middle years, as well as the very young – the national servicemen (NSFs).
Digitalizing an emergency response organization is a big challenge, too, considering the amount of manual work inherent to firefighting, rescue, and emergency work.
“Traditionally it has been very manual because the human does a lot of the work. In firefighting, for instance, it's hard to get a machine to take over because every fire and every situation is different. So that human intuition and human response is very important in our operations.”
"We work hard to convince our people to adopt the technology... [but] we also make sure that we never take the man out of the loop. Human judgment, human decisions are still needed in the process. We cannot delegate that to a machine."
A team effort
The project will be test-bedded at SCDF’s Smart Fire Station – Punggol Fire Station, on its latest-generation fire emergency vehicles. The next phase of this two-year project will see the full integration of solutions and ongoing field testing. This will be followed by a trial before eventual deployment.
It is understood that SCDF will be supported on the data governance and cybersecurity front by IMDA and IBM.
This project is supported by IMDA’s 5G Innovation Programme, which helps enterprises adopt and commercialize 5G technologies. As the tech arm of the Home Team, HTX will be offering its technical capabilities and guidance to ensure that it meets SCDF’s operational needs.
The role of IBM is to deliver the end-to-end solution leveraging AI technology, automation, and AR, while StarHub will provide the 5G connectivity and hardware to ensure optimal performance of these solutions, including offering network technical expertise.
“IBM is committed to supporting Singapore in its Smart Nation efforts and will continue to help organizations and partners explore new possibilities brought by cutting-edge technology like AI to drive process efficiency, augment labor productivity, and transform IT automation,” said Ronald Castro, vice president, IBM Supply Chain, IBM.
This use case will be showcased at Think on Tour Singapore, an invite-only, in-person conference hosted by IBM on 14 September 2023.
Paul Mah is the editor of DSAITrends. A former system administrator, programmer, and IT lecturer, he enjoys writing both code and prose. You can reach him at [email protected].
Image credit: iStockphoto/boule13